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Zuckerberg settles lawsuit following 2019 death of security guard

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A lawsuit against Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg surrounding the wrongful death of a security guard who suffered a heart attack while climbing a steep, slippery trail on his North Shore Kauaʻi property was dismissed earlier this month following a settlement.

The complaint, first filed in August 2021, accuses Zuckerberg’s LLC and his property’s head of security, Hank Barriga, of wrongful death, negligence, infliction of severe emotional distress, and punitive damages due to 70-year-old security guard Rodney Medeiros dying after being told to climb a muddy trail in rainy weather following his shift on Aug. 4, 2019.

Michael Stern, an attorney for the plaintiffs, Medeiros’ children, declined to disclose details about the case or settlement due to confidentiality.

However, he said his clients were happy that the case had been resolved.

“It wasn’t too difficult to prove that there was negligence, period,” Stern said in an interview with Kauaʻi Now on May 20.

The 2021 complaint alleges that Medeiros, like the other guards working on the property, was supposed to be driven daily to his security post at the remote beach on Zuckerberg’s property by an employee driving a Kawasaki Mule, a type of off-road vehicle. 


However, due to heavy rain, the off-road vehicle bringing Medeiros’ replacement could not make it down to the post because of muddy trail conditions. The replacement was then told to walk down the slippery trail, which also had a fast-flowing, scary, and dangerous stream.

The replacement guard advised Medeiros not to take that trail, the West trail, because of the stream.

Medeiros was then reportedly advised to walk up the other route, the East Access trail, in the mud and rain, which had steeper drop downs on either side.

About 15 to 20 minutes into the hike, another security guard, who was waiting for Medeiros at the top of the trail, heard Medeirosʻ garbled, incomprehensible voice calling out for help through his radio transmitter.

The security guard reportedly walked down the trail and found Medeiros leaning against a tree and complaining of chest pains. The Head of Security Barriga was then alerted, who called the on-property medic and 911.


The medic then transported Medeiros on a backboard from the trail to an area where county paramedics were waiting. Medeiros was later pronounced dead at 1:34 a.m. after being transported to Wilcox Medical Center in Lihuʻe.

According to the complaint, “safe and secure passage” had been an ongoing issue at Zuckerberg’s property.

“No lights, pitch black with drop-offs. This has happened many, many times before. It’s the first time they’ve ever had a 70-year-old guy hike up in the flooding, dark rain,” Stern said. 

“It was a very steep hike for somebody thirty years younger in good conditions,” Stern added.

Stern said that there were alternatives to prevent the situation, such as guards having vehicles with tires to be able to go through the mud, which “other higher-up people on the property had.”


“It wasn’t very expensive to put on some tires that Kawasaki makes and other brands make for those Mules,” he said. 

Stern said that the repeated issues with guards struggling to get to and from their required posts in inclement weather made negligence clear.

According to court records, the case was officially dismissed on May 10. It had been scheduled to go to trial next month. 

A representative for Zuckerberg could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Emma Grunwald
Emma Grunwald is a reporter for Kauaʻi Now. You can reach her at emma.grunwald@pmghawaii.com.
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